The rooms have been built
where once none were there.
No hotel rooms this year
but a fresh venue with flair.

The reps have been tweaking
to get things just right,
to prepare for the crowds
at dawn's early light.

The electric cars are a' charging
the audience to thrill,
in driving the future
tomorrow's test runs they will.

The robots are all quiet
lost in their sleep,
dreaming the sweet dreams
of electronic sheep.

The audience is likewise
getting their rest,
in anticipation of this year's
TAVES audio fest.

TAVES 2016
was a fabulous year.
The wonders of 2017
are soon to be here.

So muster your courage
to seek bold and anew.
The exhibitors look all fresh
and they're waiting for you.
The evolution from dedicated HighEnd audio fest towards a fully fledged CES-style electronics & lifestyle show continued on this year. There would be a cornucopia of different media on display and in action, from electric car test drives, VR and robotics workshops to a multitude of seminars, video... and of course, our old friend audio. Where once this approach had been deemed a gamble, several years of successful experience have proven the new balance a sustainable enterprise. Audiences have eagerly flocked to sample the new mix of media. While some diehard audio enthusiasts may lament the loss of dedicated event focus, the TAVES style reboot has brought fresh inquisitive blood into the halls of high-end music. In today's state of the industry, that marks a major step forward in one key respect. Our high end was never intended to exclude with pretension but rather, entice and embrace with higher quality and acoustical integrity. Any venue that succeeds at demonstrating that core intent nurtures lovers of music and ultimately builds a brighter future for the audio industry.

In 2017 it was the new location itself which presented the greatest challenge for the audio contingent and TAVES once again engaged in some pioneering work. Former incarnations of the show—from The King Edward Hotel through two Sheraton locations—had always had the commonality of audio demonstration facilities based on standard hotel rooms along with the traditional gauntlet of floor displays and conference room adjuncts. This year the organizers threw that rule book out the window with their new location of Toronto Congress Center.

Yes there were still some major halls and yes, there was a 'market place' area but this is not a hotel so there are no conventional hotel rooms. What the show organizers faced was one singular massive floor space. Their challenge was to rethink that space and allow multiple exhibitors to conduct audio demonstrations in separated environments. The solution was quite ingenious. The TAVES personnel built enclosures, effectively creating the equivalent of the traditional rooms, albeit with potential for superior acoustical control. The good news? Participants indicated major sonic improvements over prior hotel accommodations already during setup day so it would appear that the unorthodox strategy succeeded. Listeners would be in for a treat. And thus the stage was set. The hard work that had been a full year in planning and execution was about to open its doors to the public. On Friday, last-minute preparations were in progress and exhibitors prepared their best smiles for the next morning's arrivals. It was almost time.

Show organizers Suave Kajko & Laura William.

Have crates, will travel.

Time is of the essence? You don't say.

What goes up must come down - as in, setup is only half the action. Takedown when attendees are long gone reverses the process. This is real work, folks!

Meanwhile daylight approached and soon the lines would start.

As always, my show coverage is wide eyed and full throttle. If information is sparse at times, at least your interest might be piqued. A search engine or better yet, visit to your local dealer can fill in the blanks and educate your ears. If a contributor feels shortchanged on mention, my apologies. The spirit is willing but creaking bones and time constraints are ever the enemy. My heart's racing and my camera finger twitching. On with it. Like a three-ring circus there was always something happening and most often at overlapping or conflicting times. The show was definitely rich in ambition and diversity. If the intention was to incite curiosity in a broader audience, it certainly succeeded. Artists were showcasing their talent in conventional media as well as breaking new frontiers with real-time virtual art.

Don the glasses and create a masterwork! Panel discussions hit exciting topics involving artificial intelligence like speech by thought through revolutionary new hardware and software, instant translation, autonomous vehicles and the exploration of our love-and-fear relationship with robots from the nasty T2 down to the cute and cuddly variety which are becoming a new staple in therapeutic use. It was not all talk. There was bot action everywhere, with local dignitaries like Michael Ford catching photo ops with show favorite droids Bert and Herbert. For the competitive arena crowd, remote control fighting bots went mano i mano to the cheers and laughter of spectators.

Workshops were ongoing for all ages. Build and program a working robot? Child's play. If you wanted to learn the basics about audio component technology, the state of 4K or the adventures of pirate radio, it was there. Interactive involvement was key. For bigger toys, the latest electric automobiles were on display and available for test drives. TAVES 2017 was all about embracing the future and finding our new foothold. This year again there was a very modest amount of video on display, with a short-throw laser projector from Epson delighting young gamers and some very serious efforts from JVC. Rep Greg Cameron was demoing a superb looking pixel-shift model with a knockout picture and also a new pricier full 4K model upping the image ante even higher (at a modest price increase of course).

Update TV and Stereo were taking time off from their rich stable of extreme audio gear to showcase the Samsung 4k UHD HDR line of televisions. The ever increasing panel size coupled to decreasing price point is certainly amazing. A truly stunning 84-inch panel was on sale at the show for just under $5'000, making it serious competition for traditional front screen projectors. The times are changing! Was our poor audiophile contingent left out?

Update TV and Stereo were taking time off from their rich stable of extreme audio gear to showcase the Samsung 4k UHD HDR line of televisions. The ever increasing panel size coupled to decreasing price point is certainly amazing. A truly stunning 84-inch panel was on sale at the show for just under $5'000, making it serious competition for traditional front screen projectors. The times are changing! Was our poor audiophile contingent left out?

Not to worry. The legacy core audio portion was well represented. While some familiar faces were absent and their presence was missed, there was a hefty backbone of distributors and retailers offering impressive product plus fresh faces to fill the void. In fact, several familiar faces who had been exhibitors at past shows dropped by as visitors, either to survey their handiwork in operation or curious to see how the new venue would fare. This included Mike Tang of Mike Tang Audio, George Klissarov of Exasound, Knut Skogrand of cable fame as well as the dynamic Mystic Audio duo of Rene Evans and Dennis Owens. They found the show quite heavily populated from opening day. There was something here to satisfy almost everyone's taste, musically and financially. The pricing of gear at the show ran the gamut of cheap and cheerful to the second (or third) mortgage variety.

Vinyl was getting a greater foothold again both in exhibited turntable hardware and more importantly in software. Second-hand and new titles were represented on the floor in widespread proliferation. High-end CDs were also on the tables as well as in individual dealer rooms like Toronto Home of the Audiophile. Show staple and renowned recording engineer Todd Garfinkle was in with his fabulous catalog of MA Recordings and the lovely and immensely talented Anne Bisson was available with her highly regarded works, proudly pointing to her prestigious Rocky Mountain International Press Award. It was good to see a wealth of music. After all, without some quality source material, what is High End audio but expensive industrial artwork?

The headphone brigade was highly represented this year although located on the gauntlet aisles in two different areas of the facility rather than in dedicated separate rooms. Distributors have discovered a healthy market opportunity in the newer generation who have the taste but are unwilling or unable to commit the floor space for a traditional big rig. At TAVES 2017 the bulk of the gear was relatively new and exciting product lines ran shoulder to shoulder with the traditional brands. Tri-Cell brought some interesting new electrostatic hybrid phones from Mitchell and Johnson, attractively priced from $430 to $700 for the top model. Rep David Geist patiently spent time showing me the advantages. With no need for special cabling, they seemed smartly engineered, premium finished and sonically virtuous.

The sons of designer Joe Skubinski were showing their latest Diana planarmagnetic Abyss headphones. They're smaller, stylish as all get out and superb sounding of course. At about $3'000, they are also more attainable than the state-of-the-art bigger brother AB-1266.

Bluewave had their lovely little 24-bit GET wireless Bluetooth headphone amp past prototype stage and in full production. It was a formidable little performer and at just $99 US, mine is on order. Hi Fi Man and Audeze were garnering praise along with the stalwart Grado line and fresh names like Kennerton and Mr. Speaker were looking quite the polished performers and making positive impressions. High-end headphone amps ran rampant with and without tubular glow, with names like Woo, Sony, SH, Wells Audio, Gold Note, Pathos, Cayin and Auris enticing the hardcore headphone curious to name just a few. There is serious pedigree and technological advance exploding in this sector, from the lowliest bud on up the ladder.